For the past two months, religious leaders, immigration advocates, and day laborers across the nation have been participating in a days-long fast to encourage Congress to pass immigration reform and to stop mass deportations. Participants in Mountain View, CA, kicked off the movement with a week-long fast before passing the baton to other states, including Florida, New Jersey, Oregon, and Massachusetts.
Notably, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) fasted in Washington, DC on Monday in solidarity with the week-long fasts occurring in his home state of Washington. Kilmer’s spokesman told the Peninsula Daily News, “He is fasting specifically to encourage Congress to act on immigration reform.”
Faith leaders in Philadelphia have gone even further by committing to a forty-day fast. The New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia (NSM), which organized the forty-day fast, hopes to put pressure on local law enforcement to stop its collaboration with immigration officials to deport immigrants who do not have the proper documentation.
In an interview with ThinkProgress, NSM director Peter Pedemonti said, “it’s a strong discipline to understand that people are going without food and water. This makes me remember all the families in Philly who are separated from their family and people who have had parents deported.” He is on his twelfth day of fasting.
Philadelphia has one of the highest percentages of immigration detentions in the country. Between 2008 and 2011, Philadelphia police transferred 480 of 583 people into immigration custody, despite these people having little to no prior criminal record. Nationally, over 1.1 million people were deported in the same period.